Members of the Nisga’a legislature met this summer in Gitlaxt’aamiks, B.C. to deliberate the affairs of the Nisga’a Nation, to propose legislation and to pass budgets. Other business came up during legislative session, some of it in the form of planned agenda items, some sparked by members’ comments and some raised during question period.
Many of the items discussed represented stories that the public would be interested in, but it’s unlikely that they will show up in the media. There were no other reporters covering the legislature that day.
The Terrace Standard newspaper is located in Terrace, B.C., which is a 90-minute car ride south of Gitlaxt’aamiks. Its coverage area includes the Nisga’a Nation. The Standard covers Nisga’a stories and chronicled the negotiations that led to the signing of the Nisga’a Treaty and with it, the birth of the Nisga’a legislature. But it’s a different time some 20 years later, economically in particular.
Standard publisher and editor Rod Link says that lack of coverage of the Nisga’a legislature comes down to “the size of our newsroom, the amount of the story budget and the time available,” and that strategic choices must be made about how they are allocated. The geographic location of Nisga’a territory (a 90-minute drive both ways) also plays a part in determining when a story can be covered, Link said.
Limited resources don’t just impact small community newspapers’ coverage of news in remote First Nations. This capacity issue is impacting coverage in general. “If you talk to other newsrooms, it’s even difficult for them to cover local city council meetings,” Link says. “You end up having to pick and choose what stories you can do justice to.”
CBC reporter and radio host Duncan McCue has produced stories about First Nations and non-First Nations issues alike. McCue agrees with Link that budgets for any stories that involve travel are limited these days.
But, McCue points out, newsroom attitudes have been limited as well. First Nations stories are out of sight and out of mind — and not just geographically. “It’s a nuanced difficulty, but it often comes down to whether or not non-Indigenous senior editors even care enough about Indigenous issues to put them in their news lineups,” he says.
“That’s changing now, though, with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action for media, but also the use of social media by Indigenous interests to drive the conversations about issues that matter to them,” McCue says. “Mainstream media is having to catch up.” The Internet has changed the game, and there is no shortage of interest in local First Nations stories in the broader world, he says.
For now, the lack of coverage persists, especially in remote communities like Nisga’a, and stories remain untold — stories like these, which came to light during the July sitting of the Nisga’a legislature:
- Cutbacks to expenses for Nisga’a citizens requiring medical travel
- Service quality questions spark Nisga’a healthcare service review
- Nisga’a Nation national anthem proposed
- Correcting a recent mistake made by an anthropologist who misidentified Nisga’a people
- The completion of a book authored by former Nisga’a president Joe Gosnell
- A child welfare authority transfer process in the northwest corridor
- Black ziplock bags with skeleton heads on them containing what officials say is a new drug
- Nisga’a citizen from humble beginnings opens tree service business
- The state of transparency of Lisims government, and how Nisga’a portray themselves to media
- Out-of-date textbooks used by the Nisga’a school district are causing some students who move to other school districts to be identified as academically deficient
- Ancient Nisga’a longhouse unearthed in Meziadin archeological dig
- Land acquired for Nisga’a rock and gravel quarry
- New moorage fees considered to help offset facility maintenance and improvement costs
- Paved road will make Kincolith the true northern gateway to the Orient, official says
- Village fibre optic installation lags
- Status of Nisga’a highway upgrades
- Better monitoring of soft-shell crabs sought
- Commercial fishermen seek clarity around fishing boat upgrade fund
- Discoloured and diseased-looking fish appearing in test fishery; UVic says it’s not caused by Fukushima
- Impact of foreign investment on northern B.C. properties adjacent to Nisga’a lands
- More resources sought for Nisga’a man recently rendered a quadriplegic
- Village justice worker position vacant
- Fish poaching in Nisga’a waters
- Legislators’ meeting attendances not policed, official says
- Village high school student residence slated for closure
- Legislators’ stipend policy questioned
- Own-source revenue agreement amended
- Church attendance in Nass plummets
- School district to probe independent school status
- Pitt Meadows Nisga’a youth aims for 2020 Olympics in kayaking
- Nisga’a settlement trust balance a third of a billion dollars, president says
- Nation cries foul over careless logging practices on Nisga’a lands
- Calls for wood beetle impact survey on Nisga’a land
- Nisga’a citizens brace for 28 per cent BC Hydro hike
- Action demanded after artifacts wrongfully identified as not Nisga’a [end]
This is the second article in a five-part investigation into freedom of the press in First Nations. Read the whole series:
1. In First Nations, freedom of the press is unclear
Treaties are no guarantee of freedom of the press — but there’s little media coverage in First Nations anyway.
Thirty-five stories that are unlikely to ever see the light of day.
3. FOI laws don’t apply to most First Nations
Only a handful of more than 600 First Nations in Canada have laws that grant their members and the public access to information.
4. The freedom to limit freedom of the press
Some Indigenous band councils are banning journalists, challenging freedom of the press guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Are they protecting their communities from harm, or protecting themselves from scrutiny?
First Nations community members are pushing for post-treaty freedom of the press — but a lack of journalism training opportunities is holding back those trying to hold their governments to account.